An attorney for a Tea Party group that believes the IRS targeted it for special scrutiny while applying for nonprofit status said an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that the agency had a "secret working group" devoted to investigating conservative organizations.
Attorney Dan Backer, whose client TheTeaParty.net has been trying to obtain tax-exempt status since 2010, said an IRS analyst mentioned the alleged working group during a phone conversation about one of Backer's other client organizations.
"More than a year ago, one of these guys, really a slip of the tongue, [said] 'Yeah we have this new working group that's really looking at all these conservative organizations,'" Backer said. "And that's when we knew it was gonna be a problem."
The IRS apologized for singling out organizations with conservative-sounding names and missions for scrutiny on Friday, days before the agency's inspector general is expected to release the results of its investigation into the matter.
The IRS says low-level staffers in its Cincinnati, Ohio office, conducted the inappropriate targeting. However, Backer and other conservatives say they doubt this excuse and believe the targeting was approved higher up in the agency.
Backer said IRS staffers at the Cincinnati determinations unit were singling out conservatives because "that's where they have this secret working group."